Starting this week, the Red Lion Hotel on Mullowney Lane will return to its original moniker, the Billings Hotel and Convention Center.
Owner Jeff Muri purchased the hotel in 1999 and operated it as the Billings Hotel and Convention Center until he franchised with Red Lion in 2016. Beginning late last year, he started the process of bringing the hotel back under his sole ownership.
The year and a half under the Red Lion name and stewardship was a good experience for the most part, Muri said. However, throughout the time with Red Lion Muri realized he liked being the one to call the shots.
"I was my own guy for 18 years," he said. "I'm a local businessman. That's what I like."
Inner Circle, the Florida company that now owns the Radisson Hotel on Midland Road, sees an opening.
The process of converting the hotel back to its original name will be expensive and labor-intensive. Muri will have to change everything from outdoor and indoor signage to employee uniforms and the hotel's online and social media presence.
The front desk and lobby will require new software to replace the room booking and management program run by Red Lion. Still, Muri said he believes it'll be worth the effort.
Muri's time working under Red Lion combined with his nearly two decades of experience running the hotel before that gives him "an amazing blend of knowledge" as he moves forward with the change.
"Pride of ownership is a huge deal," he said.
The Billings Hotel and Convention Center has 230 rooms and 27,000 square feet of convention space, which sits adjacent to the convention center owned by the Radisson Hotel, next door to the Billings Hotel.
In the past, Muri said he was able to partner with the Radisson, when it was still a Holiday Inn, and together host larger conventions. However, the Radisson, which for a time last year looked at razing its convention center to build new, isn't marketing to convention groups and so Muri has been on his own with his convention center.
In the short term it's worked well.
"It's given me some additional business," Muri said.
But he's eager to see the Radisson go through its remodel and figure out what it's going to do with its convention center. A fully operating Radisson will make the area more attractive and ultimately draw in business for Muri.
Muri believes the change from Red Lion back to the Billings Hotel and Convention Center will not only benefit him and his employees but that it'll be good for Billings as a whole. The money he was paying to Red Lion in franchise fees will now stay in the area and feed into the local economy, he said.
"It bothered me to send money out of state," he said. "We want to keep the money, the jobs and the business local."